The MOQ Shop

 

 

Other MOQ papers on this website:

Evolution, Time & Order Paper

The 1993 AHP transcript-Part One

Selections from the 1993 AHP transcript

PhD Commentary

An Open Letter to Sam Harris

Art & the MOQ by Robert Pirsig

An Introduction to
 Robert Pirsig’s Metaphysics of Quality

An MOQ Summary by Robert Pirsig

Khoo Hock Aun's Paper

David Buchanan's Art & Morality Paper

Gavin Gee-Clough's "Brisbane Winter" Paper 

 Henry Gurr's MOQ presentation

 

Sneddon Thesis

- Part One

 

Sneddon Thesis - Part Two

David Buchanan's 2006 Paper

Observer Interview

Notes on the tetralemma

The MOQ & Education

Pirsig & Pragmatism

Chai at the Lazy Lounge

 

Other MOQ Conference Papers:

Robert Pirsig's Welcome Speech

Dr McWatt's Handout

Henry Gurr's Handout

Ian Glendinning's Paper

Mati Palm-Leis's Paper

Gavin Gee-Clough's Paper

Khoo Hock Aun's Paper

 

 


Fun with Blasphemy - director's cut

By David Buchanan

dmbuchanan@hotmail.com

Two weeks ago I went camping with a bunch of people. Among them was a fifteen year old boy called J.D. and a fifty-something Tibetan refugee named Karma. The boy watched the man and after some time turned and said, "Dad, that guy Karma is ALWAYS working. And he's ALWAYS smiling. He's COOL." I think that young man was right. My friends and I have talked about this and we've tried to get at Karma's quality in more intellectual terms, in terms of Buddhism and peace of mind. But its not necessary to put it in those terms. Its enough just to see that the man is cool, especially if you're only fifteen years old.

We're here to celebrate the world's first Ph.D. on the Metaphysics of Quality. We're here to congratulate Anthony's achievement. He's driven some stakes into the ground. He's marked out some turf to establish and perpetuate the MOQ in the academic world. In line with that, I'd like to offers some ideas about how the MOQ can be perpetuated at the social level. I certainly can't offer anything definitive and this whole idea might even violate the moral codes of the MOQ in some way that I don't yet see. I really don't know. But I want to believe that the MOQ can be seen as something that is both intellectually valid and COOL.

There are three reasons for opening with a quote from the late, great comedian Bill Hicks. One is that Anthony McWatt is a big fan. (Me too. I think he makes all the other comedians look cowardly by comparison.) Also, I think the quote strikes the right note and that its true. The third reason to open with a Bill Hicks quote is that its funny. Hicks said...

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it you think it's real because that's how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. me people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question: 'Is this real, or is this just a ride?' And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey, don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.' ...And we kill those people."

Dr. McWatt sent that quote to the MOQ discussion group back in April when Bill Hicks' biographer, Kevin Booth, was on a tour through the UK promoting his book AGENT OF EVOLUTION. Good title. I'd like to talk about agents of evolution, especially the kind that used to get killed or locked up for saying certain things about reality. I'd like to talk about a certain kind of evolutionary hero.

I'm guessing there were a few Pirsig fans who would've very much liked to see a film version of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (ZMM). I have to confess at the start that I'm still learning about movies and philosophy, so I can only offer a rough outline. I can only tell you about some ideas that I ALMOST have in mind, but not quite. I'm still trying to work it out, so this will be a bit sketchy. I'd be grateful if you'd think of it as a way to raise some issues and open a discussion. Also, I won't attempt to defy the distinction between film and philosophy or convince anyone that ZMM itself should be turned into a movie. Instead, I'd just like to offer some thoughts about how film works and then sketch out a few ideas about what can be done within those parameters. It seems we can't have a film version of ZMM, but maybe there's room for a story that a Pirsig fan could love. Those slick Hollywood movies need strong characters that take some kind of action to overcome obstacles and all that. But if we have the right kind of hero, maybe there's room for a story that could amuse a Buddhist or charm a mystic. I hope to roughly sketch out, to suggest what that would look like. It'll be the verbal equivalent of a gestural drawing, if you will. It might not even make much sense until we're nearly finished. It'll just be a few lines here, a scribble and a doodle there, but hopefully a picture will start to emerge.

Let's start with a couple of observations from LILA.

A few pages into chapter 29:

"The theater's a form of hypnosis. So are movies and TV. When you enter a movie theater you know that all you're going to see is 24 shadows per second flashed on a screen to give an illusion of moving people and objects. Yet despite this knowledge you laugh when the 24 shadows per second tell jokes and cry when the shadows show actors faking death. You know they are an illusion yet you enter the illusion and become part of it and while the illusion is taking place you are not aware that it is an illusion. This is hypnosis. It is trance. Its also a form of temporary insanity. But its also a powerful force for cultural reinforcement and for this reason the culture promotes movies and censors them for its own benefit."

Near the end of chapter 30:

"Phaedrus saw nothing wrong with this ritualistic religion as long as the rituals are seen as merely a static portrayal of DQ, a sign-post which allows socially pattern-dominated people to see DQ. The problem has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the DQ they were originally intended to preserve."

I put these quotes side by side because I think they both get at something important about these social level rituals. A suspension of disbelief takes place in our movie theaters and in our churches. They both offer rituals that shape us, if you will. In both cases we witness the enactment of a myth and are drawn into it, engaged by it, informed by it. Or so we should when these rituals are properly preformed. In order to get at the distinction between these social level rituals and intellectual quality, let me back up just a bit.

In chapters 19 and 20 of LILA there is a discussion about the possibility of making Zen and the Art into a movie. It opens with a scene where Robert Redford, who "really would like to have the film rights", comes to meet and negotiate with Phaedrus in his New York City hotel room. Phaedrus tells the famous actor that he can have the rights to the book, but maybe that's just because he's star-struck and doesn't like to haggle. Under his excitement, Phaedrus has a bad feeling about it. He tells us that he's been warned by several different people not to allow such a film to be made. Even Redford warned him not to do it. So what's the problem? As its put at the end of that discussion, "Films are social media; his book was largely intellectual. That was the center of the problem."

And it's not just that film and philosophy are different creatures. The bad feeling that Phaedrus has is also put in terms of the hierarchy of values, in terms of the moral codes of the Metaphysics of Quality (MOQ)...

"Phaedrus still didn't want to commit himself yet. He would just have to think about it for a while and let things settle down and then see what he wanted to do. But what he saw at this point was a social pattern of values, a film, devouring an intellectual pattern of values, his book. It would be a lower form of life feeding upon a higher form of life. As such it would be immoral. And that's exactly how it felt; immoral." (Near the end of chapter 20)

And if that's not enough, there's also a description of this central problem in an actual letter from Pirsig to Redford. It's reprinted in the Guidebook to ZMM. (By Ronald DiSanto and Thomas Steele)

"Probably my greatest misgiving of all about this film", he writes, "is that because philosophy is so hard to film and narrative is so easy to film there will be an almost overwhelming pressure to subordinate the Chautauqua to the narrative - chopping it here and there, working it around here and there, slipping it in here and there into nooks and crannies of the narrative, hoping that somehow it will squeeze in. It won't. What will result is a slipshod, superficial intellectualism that will smell up the whole film with that slick commercial shallowness for which America and Hollywood have become so well known." (Pirsig in a letter to Redford.)

I guess we all know how that story ends. No such film has been made, at least not so far, and I suspect it never will be. The Chautauqua, the philosophical part of the journey, works well in the book but that inquiry into values can't be translated into film very well. Charts and graphs and abstract concepts just don't move us the way movies or other religious rituals can. Stories and myths are a different mode of expression, which is not to say movies have to be unwise or untrue. I think Pirsig makes this point in chapter 17 of LILA where he says, "Science supercedes old religious forms, not because what it says is more true in any absolute sense (whatever that is), but because what it says is more Dynamic." Its just that myths and rituals have to be what they are. They're aimed at the heart rather than the mind, if you will. Their power and magic operates below the intellect. But what if we accept this fact and work within the age old parameters of story telling? Instead of stinking up the whole thing with a superficial philosophical treatment or a squeezed in Chautauqua, how about if we take those old religious forms, the myths and archetypes we've inherited from our evolutionary past for what they are? I believe this the way to avoid that central problem. Simply put, the film makers have to work within the social level. Don't worry. That still gives us plenty to work with. I'm not suggesting we abandon everything except stories from the bible. Mythology is much bigger and older than the bible and, personally, I have a hard time getting passionate about that kind of Christ anyway. Its not the sort of thing that's likely to tickle a Pirsig fan or any kind of Buddhist. I mean, Mel Gibson is no mystic.

By now you might have guessed that Joseph Campbell's name would be coming up. He said, "My favorite definition of religion is 'a misinterpretation of mythology'. The misinterpretation consists precisely in attributing historical references to symbols which properly are spiritual in their reference." I think this is what Pirsig was talking about in his complaint about ritualistic religion. Again, "The problem has always been that the rituals, the static patterns, are mistaken for what they merely represent and are allowed to destroy the DQ they were originally intended to preserve." So if myths and rituals were originally meant to portray DQ, if they originally functioned as symbols referring to spiritual realities and not intellectual or historical truths, then we should be able to dig up that original meaning. We should be able to find and resurrect a spiritual hero within that rich inheritance. Then our hypothetical script writer could attempt to render the myth in a way that does NOT misinterpret or destroy the Dynamic Quality it was "originally intended to preserve". A few pages from the end of Lila, Pirsig recommends a good way to explore our myths. "Anthropologists could do a lot with idols. Maybe they already had. He seemed to remember a book he'd always wanted to read called THE MASKS OF GOD. You could discover a lot about a culture by what it said about its idols. The idols would be an objectification of the culture's innermost values, which were its reality." I think I may have found our hero, our agent of evolution, in this recommended book and THE MASKS OF GOD is Joseph Campbell's most epic work, but let me first say a few things about movies and his first book, which was his PhD thesis.

Its no secret that Hollywood has already discovered Campbell. His first book is called THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES and was first published more than 50 years ago. There he asserts that the world's myths, despite the many differences in their details, all depict the same spiritual and psychological journey, the same hero's journey. Basically, he says the hero can wear a thousand different cultural costumes, but there's one essential figure under all those various outfits. He calls it the mono-myth.

Very briefly, the story begins in an ordinary world where something isn't quite right. Something is slightly off balance. The call to adventure comes when this slight illness turns into a crisis. The crisis eventually motivates the hero to leave his or her world behind and enter some other reality. The adventure really begins in this other reality when the hero is confronted by great challenges, offered help along the way and confronts the bad guys or slays the dragon or otherwise struggles to set things right. Then he returns home to the ordinary world, but brings back a boon, some great treasure. Or maybe he gets the girl. There are actually a dozen stages in this journey, but describing the three big one get the point across, I think. It depicts a transforming experience.

They say George Lucas was among the first to intentionally use Campbell's heroic model to write his films, beginning with Star Wars in the late '70s. But that seems a little embarrassing now and its just the tip of the iceberg anyway. A studio executive named Christopher Vogler, who has evaluated more than 10,000 screenplays for the major studios, developed an ever-growing set of internal memos and writing workshop notes based on Joseph Campbell's work and on his own experience in the business. Then he worked it up into full-fledged book called THE WRITER'S JOURNEY: Mythic Structure for Writers. Its a best-seller and has been translated into five languages. The movies he uses as examples include everything from CASABLANCA to THE WIZARD OF OZ, from PRETTY WOMAN to PULP FICTION. He even uses one on my favorites, QUEST FOR FIRE. The principles work for just about any kind of story and if Campbell is right, they always have.

Its probably safe to assume that just about everyone has seen THE WIZARD OF OZ, so I'll use that as an example. Dorothy, the heroine of the story, is experiencing some slight trouble at home when a storm hits and she is transported to a strange land over the rainbow. There she confronts witches and a wizard, finds some friends to help her. In the end she finds the courage, intelligence and heart to make it back home. And she is transformed by this adventure. She starts out as a girl and comes back as a woman. She grows. That's what heroes do. They show us how to get better.

Christopher Vogler's book blew my mind when I first discovered it. I had already been told by one of George Lucas's partners, way back in the mid '80s, that Campbell’s first book was essential reading for any would-be scriptwriter. I was already a pretty die-hard fan when Campbell's name came up during a discussion at a film festival about five years ago. I'd foolishly suggested that somebody ought to write a how-to book based on Campbell's heroic model. That's when I discovered that somebody already had. Vogler had written exactly what I needed to read. Even more than, his professional credentials and the popularity of the book among writers meant that Hollywood was already moving in Campbell's direction. I immediately felt more at home in the world. This discovery had a profound effect on my dream life, which is not quite as strange or disconnected as it might first seem. One of Campbell's pithy little sayings is, "Myths are public dreams and dreams are private myths." At that same festival, when myths and dreams were getting a little mixed up in my head, I'd also suggested that it would be great to see a film with an artist as its hero and asked if there were any such figures in our mythologies. That's when I discovered the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I think he's our man, our evolutionary hero. I think he's the one we should resurrect.

This brings us back to THE MASKS OF GOD, the book recommended at the end of LILA. Actually, its a series of books, a four-volume set. The first is aptly titled PRIMITIVE MYTHOLOGY and deals with our oldest stories, of course. The second and third books cover the East and West. They're called ORIENTAL MYTHOLOGY and OCCIDENTAL MYTHOLOGY. The reader is given a picture of the history and evolution of the world's myths as they've come down to us in these first three volumes. The fourth and final book in THE MASKS OF GOD series is called CREATIVE MYTHOLOGY. This one looks at the future of mythology and the artists who will help to create it. It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that Orpheus is pretty much the star of this whole show, to say that he's the linchpin that holds all four volumes together. It seems that some version of this myth can be found in just about every place and time. In MOG volume 4, page 203, Campbell says there is "an actual, archaeologically documented, family relationship to be recognized between the mythic harpists of the Celtic otherworld and those of the Orphic and Gnostic mysteries." He says, "there is evidence as well of a generic kinship of the classical mystery cults not only with the grandiose Egyptian mythic complex of that dying god Osiris and the Mesopotamian of Tammuz, but also with those widely distributed primitive myths and rites" and that the "same idea is expressed mythologically in the Indian account quoted in ORIENTAL MYTHOLOGY". Basically, Orpheus is everywhere. That's why he's our hero.

I figure there must be something true about this myth or it wouldn't be so persistent, so perennial. But there are also distortions and misinterpretations. As I understand it, the classic versions that come down to us from the Romans, from Ovid and Virgil, are actually parodies of the original. They mock and ridicule Orpheus. Maybe its because Orpheus is a poet, a musician and a vegetarian and the Romans preferred more macho heroes. Maybe its because they admired tales of conquest more than love stories. I don't know. In any case, I'm pretty well convinced that its meaning and mystery were lost by the time of the Romans. Fortunately there are so many versions that we need not rely on them. The following quote from Campbell gives us a sense of this myth in the pre-Socratic Greek world, back in the days of the Sophists. I think this is where we can find a much more suitable version of Orpheus, although we can also see that things are beginning to go sour.

MOG volume 3, page 185:

Later on, in the period of Greek urban life, detached from the earlier ground of the tribal-bound secret men's rites, the so-called 'initiating priests of Orpheus' revised their spiritual art to the new spiritual needs. And their modes of presentation now were divided into a lower, largely ritualistic category, and a higher, purely spiritual, philosophic one, where the initiators were indeed, philosophers: first the Pythagoreans, but then others also; Empedocles and onward to our dear and well-known Platonic banqueters. In the teachings of Pythagoras the philosophic quest for the first cause and principle of all things was carried to a consideration of the problem of the magic of the Orphic lyre itself, by which the hearts of men are quelled, purified, and restored to their part in God. His conclusion was that the (principle) was number, which is audible in music, and by a principle of resonance touches - and adjusts thereby - the tuning of the soul. The idea is fundamental to the arts of both India and the Far East and may go back to the age of the Pyramids. However, as far as we know, it was Pythagoras who first rendered it systematically, as a principle by which art, psychology, philosophy, ritual, mathematics, and even athletics were to be recognized as aspects of a single science of harmony."

Just to add a little weight, should mention Peter Kingsley's book ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY, MYSTERY AND MAGIC, which, like all of his work, explores the roots of Western philosophy and spirituality. (He grew up and was educated in England, but presently lives in the US.) He's working with actual archaeological evidence. The papyrus he refers to here is known as the Derveni papyrus which was discovered in 1962. (On page 164-5) He said,...

"In highly vivid and critical terms the author of the papyrus attacks wandering Orphic priests - the details of the description show that these priests are indistinguishable from the ones mocked at by Plato in the Republic - for going about their business and earning money performing their rituals without being able to explain either to themselves, or to anyone else, what they are really doing."

It seems these priests, the ones that don't know what they're doing, must be the same ones Campbell refers to as belonging to that "lower, largely ritualistic category". And it seems to me that here we are talking about the Sophists discussed in ZMM. And I think they all agree that this period not only represents the emergence of intellect and historic time, but also represents the beginning of the end of mysticism in the West. Religion and spirituality was not only dividing into two static categories, but this is also where the West starts to loose touch with Dynamic Quality, if you will. As I understand it, the meaning of the myth of Orpheus, or rather one of the more interesting and important meanings of this myth, gets lost when we view it as just a love story.

In the standard version, Orpheus is dedicated to his music and has no time for girlfriends until he meets Eurydice. Apparently she's really something. His love for her is so deep that he's willing to put his lyre aside long enough to marry her. But tragically, on their wedding day, she is bitten by a snake and dies. He can't accept this loss and decides to do what no mortal had ever done; enter the land of the dead while still alive and then bring her back. The gods of the underworld are so impressed that they allow his rescue attempt to go forward, on one condition, that he not look back. Just before they reach the entrance back into the world of the living, he does the one forbidden thing. He looks back and Eurydice is lost again, this time forever.

Despite his failure to bring her back from the Underworld, Orpheus is still transformed by the experience. But his transformation goes deeper than Dorothy's entrance into adulthood. He goes in as a musician, but comes out a great prophet. He is ripped apart like a Dionysian sacrificial animal and is decapitated, but his floating head defies this and continues to sing and foretell the future. Finally he ascends to heaven and takes up residence in the constellation Lyra, which includes Vega, the harp star. Instead of a lover, he gets some kind of immortality, becomes a god. And I like to think its enough to cross that terrible threshold and come back again, even if he could not make that crossing for another. Maybe one of the lessons is that no one can do it for you, that this is necessarily a journey we each have to take alone.

But don't forget that our would-be script writer needs to make sure that this myth is rendered in a way that makes it something more than just a tragic love story. Their marriage is JUST ABOUT to take place when he loses her and they are ALMOST BACK from the underworld when he looses her again, so I get the distinct impression that she is a symbol for that which is just out of reach, just beyond our grasp. Even the music he plays has a mournful, yearning quality to it.

I know next to nothing about music, but I'm told that the pentatonic scale he uses has a hole in it, so to speak. On some level we can tell that a tone is missing and it has a way of engaging us in the same way that a missing beat makes us want to dance. The use of this scale produces a kind of music that leaves something out and that this scale is still widely used to produce a mournful, yearning quality. We can hear it in the blues, in Celtic folk songs, Indian sitar music or the high lonesome sound of American bluegrass. Its everywhere.

But our Orpheus was the kind who could be a key figure among those more philosophical initiating priests and was associated with the mystery cults, so our story is about spiritual yearning, not just broken hearts or homesick blues. She's a metaphor for something aesthetic rather than just emotional or intellectual. She is that dim apprehension that leads us forward even when we don't know what we're looking for. She's the feeling we sometimes get upon waking from a particularly beautiful dream. She's the feeling of something really amazing or important slipping away back into that fading dreamworld. She's what we desire the mysterious beauty we pursue. So I think we all have the desire to rescue Eurydice and that she's metaphor for that certain kind of spiritual yearning, the desire for personal transformation. This is what makes Orpheus our mystical hero, our agent of evolution. And this is where we can really start to have some fun with blasphemy.

Pirsig in ZAMM p143:

"In all of the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat tvam asi, "Thou art that," which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened."

From Campbell's THOU ART THAT: Transforming Religious Metaphor:

"Already in the 8th century B.C., in the Chandogya Upanisad, the key word to such a meditation is announced; TAT TVAM ASI, "Thou art That", or "You yourself are It!". The final sense of a religion such as Hinduism or Buddhism is to bring about in the individual an experience, one way or another, of his own IDENTITY with that mystery that is the mystery of all being. ...it is the mystery also of many of our own Occidental mystics; and many of these have been burned for having said as much. Westward of Iran, in all three of the great traditions that have come to us from the Near Eastern zone, namely Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, such concepts are unthinkable and sheer heresy. God created the world. Creator and creature cannot be the same, since, as Aristotle tells us, A is not-A. Our theology, therefore, begins from the point of view of waking consciousness and Aristotelian logic; whereas, on another level of consciousness - and this, the level to which all religions must finally refer - the ultimate mystery transcends the laws of dualistic logic, causality and space-time. Anyone who says, as Jesus is reported to have said (John 10:30), 'I and the Father are One', is declared in our tradition to have blasphemed. ...We in our tradition do not recognize the possibility of such an experience of identity with the ground of one's own being. What we accept, rather, is the achievement and maintenance of a relationship to a personality conceived to be our Creator. In other words, ours is a religion of RELATIONSHIP: a, the creature, RELATED to X, the Creator (aRX). In the Orient, on the other hand, the appropriate formula would be something more like the simple equation, a=X."

I don't want to take up much more time so let me try to give you the big idea here. If we wanted to write a screenplay for everyone who might be a little sad that ZMM will probably never be a movie, we'd probably have to do a little mythological excavation project first. The best way to look for Western heroes, ones who aren't gunslingers, is to go back to a time before mysticism was buried and hidden under all our static patterns. We have to create a hero who knows how to distinguish between the lower, "largely ritualistic" order of priests and the more philosophical, spiritual ones. The big idea here is that its not just the metaphysics of substance that killed mysticism in the West, our religions have too. That's why I think our hero will need to say and do some very blasphemous things, not least of all to proclaim be "one with the Father", and to assert that our ritualistic order of priests understand what they're talking about even less than the ritualistic priests of Plato's day.

Of course there's no reason why our movie has to be set in pre-Socratic Greece. In fact, I think he's the kind of hero we very much need in the present - or maybe slightly in the future. So let's say he plays a guitar instead of a lyre. Let's say he's a rock star. That's really how my investigation of Orpheus began. I was truly inspired by the bands I see in the small venues around Denver. I was also inspired by a couple of my bohemian friends, who are actually visual artists. They both lived in such a way that anyone could see they loved their art above all other things, sometimes to the exclusion of all other things. But the world of live music is somehow more suitable for our purposes, and I don't just mean cinematically. The power that musicians seem to wield is some kind of magic.

I saw Iris DeMent sing a song called NO TIME TO CRY, which is perhaps the saddest song in the world, in front of three thousand people. Two thousand of them cried. And it occurred to me at another show that the whole aesthetic was kind of mythic. You get that same sense of ritual when entering the darkened theater, whether its a movie, a concert or a play. Maybe there's smoke and fog, the musicians are wearing strangely exaggerated or otherworldy outfits, and the lighting crew provides them with a theatrical version of the dharmakaya light so that they all take on a luminous quality. All this makes it easy for me to imagine Orpheus as a rock star, as an urban bohemian mystic who has the power make anyone cry and who thinks blasphemy is good clean fun. But let's also say that he's NOT just a nihilistic punk. Let's say that he lives by the CODE OF ART no matter what instrument or genre we choose for him.

(The following quote from Campbell's MYTHS TO LIVE BY was accidentally excluded from the original presentation on July 7th, in room #101 of the University of Liverpool's, Faculty of Arts Building, 12 Abercromby Square.)

"Let me recall at this point Nietzsche's statements regarding classic and romantic art. He identified two types or orders of each. There is the romanticism of true power that shatters contemporary forms to go beyond these to new forms; and there is, on the other hand, the romanticism that is unable to achieve form at all, and so smashes and disparages out of resentment. And with respect to classicism likewise, there is the classicism that finds an achievement of the recognized forms easy and can play with them at will, expressing through them its own creative aims in a rich and vital way; and there is the classicism that clings to form desperately out of weakness, dry and hard, authoritarian and cold. The POINT I WOULD MAKE - and which I believe was also Nietzsche's - is that form is the medium, the vehicle, through which life becomes manifest in its grand style, articulate and grandiose, and that the mere shattering of form is for human as well as for animal life a disaster, ritual and decorum being the structuring forms of all civilization."

There's no reason why our new Orpheus has to be based on an American artist. Someone like John Lennon would do quite nicely for our purposes, so let's keep it local. We're talking about a work of fiction so we can add whatever traits he may have lacked in real life, but there's already quite a bit to work with in his actual biography. I think its worth pointing out that basically this is how our myths are born. Once in a while somebody comes along who seems to live out a myth, whose personality somehow resembles the archetype and they often become a celebrity for playing that role. As time goes by, writers of fiction and non-fiction both take certain liberties, things are added and the legend begins to grow. I think that could happen to John Lennon. Or maybe it already is happening. On top of everything else that has already been done to celebrate his life and work, tonight in New York City there is a special pre-view performance of LENNON THE MUSICAL.

He was certainly blasphemous enough. You might remember that he once said, "Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. We're more popular than Jesus". And he sang, "Christ you know it ain't easy. You know how hard it can be. The way things are going, they're gonna crucify me." And there was the reporter who asked him, "What's the most enjoyable thing for you about this adulation, this almost godhood on earth that you've achieved?." This is the sort of thing that started riots in Japan and protests in Alabama. The Klu Klux Klan threatened the band with physical harm and burned their records. They were accused of corrupting the young people. He and the band were practically at war with the conservative forces in our culture. Sounds pretty damn Orpheus to me. I think our hypothetical scriptwriter could definitely work with all that. Maybe we could endow John with all the best features of the other Beatles. We'll give him Paul's boyish good looks and charm, George's mystical tendencies and we'll give him Ringo's, um, incredible good luck. His senseless death will definitely have to go. That's too sad even for me. Instead we'll say that Mark Chapman was a snake who worked for the bad guys and that he shot Yoko Ono. Or maybe John is shot and killed, but as a direct response to his blasphemy by his political enemies rather than by a psychotic fan.

And finally, I think we have to make sure that our new Orpheus is more a philosopher than a hippy. (Said the hack who hasn't had a haircut in eight years.) If our new Orpheus is going to resemble that pre-Socratic version, if he is going to be the kind of Orpheus that was a central figure among the Pythagoreans and other philosophical mystics, then he will have to be a very worthy character, one capable of conducting a Chautauqua even if he never does so on screen. We're resurrecting this ancient Orpheus precisely because he didn't just sing love songs or protest songs. Our hero follows the code of art** and can create new forms without recklessly destroying the old ones. We're digging him up because his songs were about the origins and fate of the cosmos, they were about the genealogy of the gods. His songs were about the oldest idea known to man, he sang about the physical and moral order of the universe.

I'd like to hear that song and see that movie. I think it would help. Because then 15 year old boys could see that kind of Orpheus and say, "Wow. He's cool".

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**  Please notice the reference there to the MOQ's "code of art". I think this concept gets at what good and bad about the "new age". It gets at the distinction between the regressive, reactionary aspects and the evolutionary and creative aspects. Here's Joseph Campbell, in his MYTHS TO LIVE BY:

 

 

"Let me recall at this point Nietzsche's statements regarding classic and romantic art. He identified two types or orders of each. There is the romanticism of true power that shatters contemporary forms to go beyond these to new forms; and there is, on the other hand, the romanticism that is unable to achieve form at all, and so smashes and disparages out of resentment. And with respect to classicism likewise, there is the classicism that finds an achievement of the recognized forms easy and can play with them at will, expressing through them its own creative aims in a rich and vital way; and there is the classicism that clings to form desperately out of weakness, dry and hard, authoritarian and cold. The POINT I WOULD MAKE - and which I believe was also Nietzsche's - is that form is the medium, the vehicle, through which life becomes manifest in its grand style, articulate and grandiose, and that the mere shattering of form is for human as well as for animal life a disaster, ritual and decorum being the structuring forms of all civilization."

"One cannot help remarking, however, that since about the year 1914 there has been evident in our progressive world an increasing disregard and even disdain for those ritual forms that once brought forth, and up to now have sustained, this infinitely rich and fruitfully developing civilization. There is a ridiculous nature-boy sentimentalism that with increasing force is taking over. Its beginnings date back to the 18th century of Rousseau, with its artificial back-to-nature movements and conceptions of the Noble Savage. Americans abroad, from the time of Mark Twain onward, have been notorious exemplars of the ideal, representing as conspicuously as possible the innocent belief that Europeans and Asians, living in older, stuffier environments, should be refreshed and awakened to their own natural innocence by the unadulterated boorishness of a product of God's Country, our sweet American soil, and our Bill of Rights. In Germany, between the wars, the Wandervogel, with their knapsacks and guitars, and the later Hitler Youth, were representatives of the reactionary trend in modern life. And now, right here in God's Country itself (published in 1972) idyllic scenes of barefoot white and black 'Indians' camping on our sidewalks with their tom-toms, bedrolls, and papooses are promising to turn entire sections of our cities into fields for anthropological research. For, as in all societies, so among these, there are distinguishing costumes, rites of initiation, required beliefs and the rest. They are here, however, explicitly reactionary and reductive, as though in the line of biological evolution one were to regress from the state of the chimpanzee to that of the starfish or even amoeba. The complexity of social patterning is rejected and reduced, and with that, life freedom and force have not been gained but lost."

"The first requirement of any society is that its adult membership should realize and represent the fact that it is they who constitute its life and being. And the first function of the rites of puberty, accordingly, must be to establish in the individual a system of sentiments that will be appropriate to the society in which he is to live, and on which that society itself must depend for its existence. In the modern Western world, moreover, there is an additional complication; for we ask of the adult something still more than that he should accept without personal criticism and judgement the habits and inherited customs of his local social group. We ask and we are expecting, rather, that he should develop what Sigmund Freud has called his 'reality function'; that faculty of the independently observant, freely thinking individual who can evaluate without preconceptions the possibilities of his environment and of himself within it, criticizing and creating, not simply reproducing inherited patterns of thought and action, but becoming himself an innovating center, an active, creative center of the life process. Our ideal for a society, in other words, is not that it should be a perfectly static organization, founded in he age of the ancestors and to remain unchanging through all time. It is rather a process moving toward a fulfilment of as yet unrealized possibilities; and in this living process each is to be an initiating  yet cooperating center. We have, consequently, the comparatively complex problem in educating our young, of training them not simply to assume uncritically the patterns of the past, but to recognize and cultivate their own creative possibilities; not to remain on some proven level of earlier biology and sociology, but to represent a movement of the species forward."

 

 

I'd be happy to discuss this further, but basically I think this is what the code of art means. I think that the basic idea is that each of us needs to be "an innovating center, an active, creative center of the life process", to be an "agent of evolution", which begins "in your own heart and hands". And I think Pirsig's critique of the hippy movement, that it started out as a positive, evolutionary movement but degenerated into hedonism, that it became opposed to social and intellectual values and then confused the biological with the Dynamic, can serve as a warning to the new agers as well. Its the same problem of regression vs evolution. And isn't it interesting that Campbell sees that "ridiculous nature-boy sentimentality" in both the hippies and in Germany's budding Hitler youth? Anyway, I think this is also the meaning of Pirsig's complaints about the notion of the "noble savage" and his idea that we should dust off those old forms and judge them impartially, that we should be grateful for the job civilization has done in taming the biological organism. And I think the big idea here is simply that evolution shouldn't entail destroying the forms that have come before, it should build upon them. There is no pre-modern answer to our postmodern problems, but alienation from our pre-modern self is part of the problem. That's why we want to re-integrate myth, but not regress to mythic thinking. That's why we want to get back in touch with nature, but without abandoning our solar-powered laptops or our sophisticated permacultural farming techniques. We want a spirituality that stands up to intellectual scrutiny so that we can have myth and science at the same time, in a worldview without drawers and compartments.

 

 

Davids "Clash of the Pragmatists" paper can also be

found on this website here and his "Art & Morality paper" here.

 


Dave & Ant, July 2005